Our friends at American Rivers are calling for anglers and river-lovers to help them block two scary pieces of legislation recently proposed in Congress. The disingenuously named Hydropower Improvement Act of 2015, sponsored by Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski, and the discussion draft proposed in the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power would turn back the clock and take the hydropower industry back to a time when they could destroy rivers with impunity. These bills would:
- Allow energy companies to opt out of Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and state water quality and wildlife protections.
- Let dam operators pass to taxpayers the costs and burdens of obeying water quality standards and wildlife laws and cleaning up pollution caused by the dams.
- Ignore modern environmental laws and let dam owners operate under 1950’s era rules — even if it means dead fish and dried up stretches of river.
- Strip states and tribes of their authority to hold hydropower dam owners accountable to water quality laws.
- Transfer the authority to protect natural resources away from the state and federal agencies that manage those resources to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a virtually unaccountable energy-permitting agency in Washington, DC.
- Make local communities responsible for all the costs and burdens of obeying water quality and wildlife management rules when dam owners don’t follow the law.
- Let anyone, regardless of their qualifications, build hydropower (up to 5 MW) on an existing dam without first proving they won’t pollute the drinking water or put local residents at risk.
In an op-ed piece opposing this legislation, Orvis CEO Perk Perkins writes,”Fishing is innate part of life in Vermont. It is ingrained in our history and culture and continues to be a vibrant and vital part of our economy. It is unacceptable for Congress to give the hydropower industry a sweetheart deal at the expense of our trout, shad, and river herring.”
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